North Tuddenham horse fair cancelled

A controversial horse fair which could have brought hundreds of travellers to a farm near Dereham has been cancelled after the landowner rescinded his permission for the event.

Organisers expected up to 2,000 visitors to the fair, which was due to be held on June 26 at Abbotts Farm on Mill Road in North Tuddenham.

Officers from Norfolk police and Breckland Council had discussed the management of the event, and confirmed there were no legal reasons preventing it going ahead on licensing, animal welfare or policing grounds.

But the anticipated arrival of a large gipsy contingent met with apprehension and opposition within North Tuddenham and surrounding communities.

Ron Smith, owner of Abbotts Farm had originally agreed to host the event, but changed his mind after realising its potential scale, and the strength of feeling against it within his village.

'I don't wish to upset anyone, but the village was not happy with it and I would rather not allow the fair to happen than annoy the villagers,' he said.

'In my defence, I was never asked if I wanted to stage Appleby Horse Fair here in North Tuddenham. When I was first approached, I thought it was a car boot sale and a few horses.

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'I don't think I was fairly informed of the magnitude of it to start with. We could have five, 50, 1,000 or 10,000 people turning up – we just don't know, and it's just not worth it. I don't want to upset anyone.'

Jonathan Stapleton, chairman of North Tuddenham Parish Council, said the council had put no pressure on the landowner to change his initial decision

He said: 'A lot of villagers were very apprehensive about a horse fair but, as far as most people are concerned, it was the fear of not knowing which was the main problem. We didn't know what to expect in terms of numbers and what the format would be.'

Organiser Bridget Mitchell said the fair had been arranged through all necessary legal channels and appealed for another landowner to step forward to help it be staged elsewhere.

'I'm very disappointed,' she said. 'It has taken a lot of time and effort and it was all done legally and above board.

'It is just a case of people worrying about what they do not understand. If anyone has got a piece of land they are willing to let us use, it would be cleaned and left tidy and would provide a good day out for all the family.'

Dereham Town Council also discussed concerns that the event could lead to overspill camping on Etling Green Common, affecting the hay crop and accessibility for residents.

The planned event followed the cancellation of a similar horse fair in Watton, which drew a crowd of 5,000 the last time it was run in 2008. Despite local fears of crime or disorder, no significant problems were reported and no arrests were made.

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